Documents obtained by non-governmental organisation Statewatch reveal that an EU initiative initially set up to gather and share data on alleged Islamic extremists has now been extended to encompass lawful campaigners and protesters.
The European Security Programme, first published in 2006, was claimed to be predicated on the need to deliver "new security-enhancing technologies" to the union's member states in order to "protect EU citizens from every conceivable threat to their security."
But it has now emerged that the programme's remit has been extended from that of monitoring terrorist suspects to potentially encompass a vast array of organisations such as anti-war and environmental groups.
In effect this means that political activists who have never committed a crime and have no links with terrorism can have their families and associates monitored as well as their ideological beliefs, internet usage and psychological profiles recorded.
In recent years the Muslim community has been controversially targeted by the Prevent programme and environmental activists have found themselves infiltrated and subject to pre-emptive arrest. But the exposure of this new shadowy EU initiative has been seen as a dangerous further erosion of civil liberties.
Stop The War convener Lindsey German said: "In recent months we have begun hearing the term 'domestic extremists' used to describe people exercising their completely legal right to protest.
"People should not be criminalised for exercising their civil rights. We said at the time that the war on terror would lead to a huge erosion of civil liberties. This is a very dangerous step and should be opposed."
Ms German said that to a certain extent most activists assumed they were being monitored but that this did not make it right.
"I've been active in campaigns for over 40 years," she said.
"I imagine there are tapes and photos of me and files on me because of campaigns I have been involved in but when you think about many of those protests, such as the anti-apartheid movement and the Irish civil rights movement, which were seen as extremist campaigns by some at the time, they are now completely acceptable.
"When you have such a homogeneous mainstream political situation as we do in Britain with the coalition government and where the Labour Party is not distinguishing itself by being left wing, anyone who is outside the mainstream is seen as extremist."
Liberty legal director James Welch said: "It's bad enough that the police in the UK already target legitimate protesters as 'extremists.' It's not made any better by the prospect of this being encouraged or driven by a secretive European agreement."
Val Swain of activist group FITwatch told the Star: "In this country we know the police and other organisations are collecting large amounts of data on political activists including protsts they attend and those they associate with and this is clearly very dangerous.
"The consequences are extremely serious because due to this style of policing people are being prevented from attending protests as they feel intimidated."
And CND chairwoman Kate Hudson said: "Citizens not only have the right to engage in peaceful political protest - one of our hard-won democratic rights over centuries - but we also have a moral duty to challenge brutal or unjust laws and policies introduced by our government.
"Opposing war is a matter of saving lives and preventing sorrow and suffering. To describe it as 'extremism' is just absurd."
Source: Morning Star